Tag Archive: tim graham


Library - 4There’s a lot of music in town this week that proves the point that it doesn’t have to be big to be clever, that sometimes the biggest impacts can come from the subtlest of approaches. Take the Songs of Praise show at The Victoria tonight. Headliners, Ethemia, work in that age-old troubadour tradition of two acoustic guitars and two vocals and the result is a breathtaking blend of quiet majesty and sensuous, hushed tones. Antonio Lulic brings open and honest story telling songs of impressive craftsmanship and opening up the night is Louise Latham, a pianist who wrings every ounce of grace and grandeur, atmosphere and heartfelt sentiment out of her piano creations.

As if to balance that chilled offering, The Beehive is throwing a party in the form of psy-trancers Zetan Spore, less a band than a riot of euphoric trance, techno, strobe lights and hypnotic beats. Somewhere in between those two extremes you can find the rocked up blues of Ian O’Regan at The Rolleston.

If you can’t find some music to suit on Friday, then you may as well donate your ears to charity, as it is the busiest night we have had in town for a long time. Two big events go head to head, firstly in the form of McFly’s greatest hits tour which is at The Oasis; those with more discerning tastes should head down to Basement 73 where one time Bluetones front man Mark Morriss and ex-Seahorse, Chris Helme (pictured) grace the stage. Incidentally, Helme’s latest album, The Rookery, was one of my musical highlights of last year, do check it out.

An interesting venture takes place at the Central Library. Pedalfolk combine their love of cycling and folk music by using acoustic transport to get to their acoustic gigs. Pedalfolk are Robin Grey, Tim Graham and Katie Stone Lonergan and have given rise to the colloquial exclamation, “Bert Jansch on a bike!” There are a few tributes kicking about as well –  Who’s Next play tribute to Acton’s finest at Riffs Bar and at The Victoria The Ramona’s are an all girl tribute to The Ramones, arrive early to catch 2 Sick Monkeys in support.

Bateleurs will be plying their European folk meets Americana trade at The Rolleston and The Parlour Kats aim to bluesrockfunkalise your soul with their vibrant genre hopping tunes at The Beehive.

The final Friday serving suggestion comes courtesy of culture corner as piano duo Clare Toomer and Paul Turner play an edited version of Holst’s Planets, possibly the most recognised suite in English classical music at the Arts Centre. (I’m more of a Samuel Barber man myself)

Saturday kicks off with a bit of ska at The Victoria with The Nomarks who warm up for local keepers of the flame for all things reggae and rocksteady, The Erin Bardwell Collective and at The Rolleston, The Beatholes throw a punked out musical curveball into the Beatles Back catalogue.

If you are looking for something a bit more up market, catch Swindon’s favourite brace of Stevie’s at The Weighbridge Brewhouse. Gilmore ‘n’ Jaz play acoustic Blues and Jazz from the pre-war era and  manage to dose it with lashings of Latin vibes and  that wonderful Django Reinhart gypsy jazz swing: where’s Stephane Grappelli when you need him?

The Art Centre on Sunday plays host to the monthly Lazy Sunday Afternoon show, hosted by Mr Love and Justice. This time they invite along The Black Feathers, a brilliant acoustic duo who up until recently have been on a stateside odyssey (possibly making sure The Civil Wars aren’t trying to make a comeback!) and Minnie Birch who sings “sad songs to make you happy” apparently. More great acoustic music can be found at The Sun Inn at Coate that evening. With a voice that is built of pure soul and the ability to blend normally mutually exclusive songs into wonderful new forms, Benji Clements is definitely one to watch. Also on the bill are Drew Bryant and Aiden Moore.

And finally in a changed to the bill, The Running Horse Sessions on Wednesday will feature the genre-defying Sierra Hurtt, so expect influences to range from the Philly Soul vibes of her birthplace to atmosperic pop and from rock and roll to blues and everything in between.

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Lazy Sunday Afternoon – Volume 1

Library - 61Despite the Councils increasing departure from supporting anything remotely cultural in Swindon (the loss of Big Arts Day, price hikes on room hire etc), there is still a small band of people who with a labour of love work ethic make good things happen. A classic example of that is the monthly Lazy Sunday Afternoon shows that have been taking place at The Arts Centre Café, thanks to Steve Cox and Mr Love and Justice, and which alongside the acoustic shows at The Running Horse, has become the major showcase for acoustica, folk and roots music. This compilation brings together the acts to be found at those shows and represents the pick of the crop from that part of the local scene.

The album kicks off with a band that I am already a major fan off, Rumour Shed. The River, take from their wonderful e.p. Postcards For Mother is a song that displays their essence, despite since evolving into a full band.  Sensual and hushed vocal tones mix with delicate guitar work as a mournful cello wanders through the background, the result is a song that is poetically rich, dreamlike, ethereal and quietly majestic.

Ethemia offer a cleaner limbed though no less evocative approach, more traditional to the acoustic folk genre. Fingerprints  On Me works so well because the duo knows how to combine two vocals and two guitars without getting in each other’s way. Imagine if The Civil Wars instead of being seeped in the lore of Nashville and the music of the deep south  were instead forged of The West Country and a more idealized pastoral tradition and you then have a useful handle on this duo.

One band that manage to effortlessly wander between Celtic, Americana and the English folk theme is Bateleurs, though this track, Go React, sees them at very much west of the Atlantic shore and  south of the Mason Dixon line. Steel pedal guitars and simple country rhythms define the song, which combines space, groove and accessibility in one neat little package.

Also in some way informed by a background American vibe, albeit a psyched out west coast wash, Mr Love and Justice’s contribution, Watching Water, is a chilled, psychedelic underground pop classic. There are times when the band immerses themselves in left wing politics, historical themes and a social awareness that seemed to have been lost in modern music. Here though they are happy to use more vague imagery and more subdued tricks to paint their musical picture. What a great picture it turns out to be.

Taken from an album that is described as a“dancers take on life…for lovers of words, rhythm, roots, rhyme and reason” Run Away To Extinction is perhaps the most experimental of all the tracks featured here. Kim Coupland delivers spoken word over a minimal Cajun or chilled zydeco musical backdrop where the pattern of the words seems to define the shape of the song. The hypnotic musical cycles coupled with the maritime descriptions that overlay them make for a very different yet fascinatingly memorable experience.

Having evolved from a pickup band into a stable and permanent line up, aural candy are more or less a pop band, but a pop band that follows a heritage that links bands such as XTC, Julian Cope, Robyn Hitchcock even the later Beatles outputs rather than anything the term suggests today. Down, Down, Down is a slice of chilled pop-rock that combines accessible music with a dark lyrical message. Nice.

Blake is the one act on the album that is truly new to me and one that I will definitely be checking out further. Lush vocal harmonies and chiming guitar rhythms seem to be the hallmark, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Too Dark, Too Deep is built of layers of lush instrumentation, accordions take the lead breaks as the sound of balalaikas add an exotic air to this wonderful slice of soulful folk-pop.

Sweet William by Jess Vincent is probably the most authentic folk piece on the album, by authentic I mean it’s the one piece that would conform to the stringent rules and regulations set down by that shadow outfit known as the  Folk Police. In a Kate Rusby sort of fashion it takes a timeless sounding song and gives it a contemporary production, the result is a song that could have been written anytime in the last three hundred years but with the benefit of modern instrumentation and studio techniques, so the best of both worlds really.

The album bows out in the hushed manner with which it kicked off. Tim Graham understands the meaning of space and is not afraid to use it, which he does  to glorious affect on Too Good To Burn. The song seems as built as much on anticipation and atmosphere as it does on vocal delivery and music and the overall affect is fantastic. Again delving into an English folk tradition and reminiscent of the likes of Nick Drake or Bert Jansch, this is a song that really explores the less is more concept and a perfect swansong for the album.

As an overview of the roots and acoustic scene that forms a significant part of Swindon’s musical activity, this is an essential album and showcases just what a great pool of bands we have to work with. Aside from  it’s showcasing qualities, it is also simply a great collection of songs and as is says Volume One under the title, I am looking forward to the appearance of a second selection of bands. Well done to Homeground Records, Steve Cox and all concerned.

It sometimes seems that these days there are as many sub-genres of rock music as there are bands themselves, as a music writer it takes a lot of keeping up with. To know your Gypsy Punk from your Krautrock, your Doom Metal from your Shoegaze or your Riot Grrrl from your Neo-Prog requires no small amount of homework. Tonight’s Songs of Praise show at The Victoria, however, can be summed up very simply, old school rock and roll, a trio of bands that both kick arse and cut the mustard. White Knuckle Bride revel in the sort of street rock that you associated with The Sunset Strip of the mid 80’s, big riffs, big choruses and a live performance charged with aggression and attitude. They are aided and abetted by current tour buddies, Burnthru and coming down from Derby to join them are sleaze merchants Bury the Ladybird (pictured). Rock and Roll it would seem is back on the menu.

 

If that doesn’t take your fancy then maybe some tongue in cheek country and/or western, for The Badass Cowboys play both types, might appeal. This ever-popular band will be at The Beehive and rather than try to describe the band I will let their album titles speak for themselves. Take Me Home Randy Rhodes; Born in the KFC and the truly inspired Portaloo Sunset, I think you get the idea of what they are about.

 

Friday can be summed up in the phrase “ from the sublime to the ridiculous.” For the sublime you should head up to the Arts Centre where violinist Miranda Dale and pianist Paul Turner will be performing not only that most quintessentially English piece, Vaughn Williams The Lark Ascending, but also music by this country’s other big names, Walton, Britten and of course Elgar.

 

At the other end of the spectrum we find ourselves back at The Beehive for Bill Smarme – king of the social club crooners, love guru, connoisseur of fine wines and marmalades, building contractor…apparently.

 

On a more even keel, The Victoria has a cracking line up featuring three of the bands to watch at the moment. The Icarus Youth do a neat line in alchemizing rock, urban and alternative sounds into a slick and quite brilliant final product and if bands such as The Post War Years or Two Door Cinema Club are your thing, then this is the place to be. But as if that wasn’t enough The Blood Choir bring their atmospheric and bleak soundscapes to life and the cinematic folk meets indie pop of Old Colours kicks the night off. Now that is one hell of a line up.

 

The big event for Saturday takes place at The Running Horse where they have gathered together their favourite acts from the past sessions to create The Acoustic Garden Festival, which does pretty much what it says on the tin. There are far too many bands to mention them all but with Faye Rogers, Alice Offley, Bateleurs, Coach and Billyjon on the bill, you can get an idea of the pedigree involved here.

 

Rock fans are going to be like kids in a sweet shop, as they have to choose between, original Status Quo drummer, John Coghlan at Riffs Bar, tributes to Muse and Iron Maiden at The Victoria and The Furnace respectively and some good old R’n’B at The Rolleston with Dickie Reed.

 

The Sabbath kicks up a couple of more chilled options. The aptly named Lazy Sunday Afternoon at The Arts Centre is hosted by Mr Love and Justice, probably one of the most popular bands of the thriving “historical, socio-political, agri-folk, jangle- pop” scene. They are joined by the Jansch-esque Tim Graham and the soothing and ethereal tones of one of my favourite bands of the moment, Rumour Shed.

 

Other laidback serving suggestions are available at The Beehive under the enigmatic title of Incarnations of Matilda. Presumably this will be not only the usual Matilda display of harmony driven blends of folky piano jazz, but after a quick game of musical chairs will feature songs by Emily Sykes and Friends also. Two bands for the price of one, what a bargain.